Saturday, July 31, 2010

God's will for salvation

“[God] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4
Many people want to know the will of God. Well, here is a verse that tells us one part of the will of God: He would be really pleased if everyone was saved. Herein lies a question: can people resist the will of God? Apparently so, because not all people come to salvation. If salvation was only dependent on God’s will and man had nothing to do with that decision, and furthermore, if God’s will was irresistable, then all people would be saved.
I believe that those of us who are saved were called individually by God and drawn by the Holy Spirit. Salvation is a free gift that He gives to us; we do not deserve it and we cannot earn it either before or after it is granted to us. I believe God’s desire is that all would be saved – He doesn’t call some to salvation and not call others. The invitation is given to all (c.f. John 7:37). However, man also has the choice and the responsibility to respond to God. God has given us free will, and so that our love for Him will be genuine, He allows people to use that free will against Him if they should choose to do so.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Our salvation stories

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:16
Paul had a testimony that was more exciting than most – an educated upbringing, progressing extremely well in his Phariseeism, going out killing Christians, having Jesus Himself appear to him on the Damascus road, then making a complete U-turn to preach the gospel he was trying to destroy. My own testimony is not nearly as exciting – I grew up in a Christian family, I’ve always known the Lord, and I’ve never gone off the rails. No matter where your testimony lies on the ‘excitement’ scale, each of us has a story to tell about our salvation. It may be about the contrast in our lives, from what we were ‘then’ to what we are now; or it may be about where we would have ended up if it wasn’t for God. When I reflect on the latter, I shudder to think – yet another anti-God academic, workaholic, far from finding God. How thankful I am that God saved me from a young age!
Every salvation story is an example of God’s patience. God doesn’t just give us one chance to be saved and if we ignore it or push it away, says, ‘Fine, that’s it then.’ No, He keeps giving us opportunity throughout our lives. God never gave up on Paul, the self-confessed ‘worst of sinners’. And He won’t give up on anyone else, either. His patience is unlimited, and we can all be thankful for that.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Things that make us stumble

“Great peace have they who love Your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” Psalm 119:165
Nobody ever stumbles on purpose. We might stumble by accident, because we can’t see where we are going. If it’s dark and we can’t see where we are putting our foot, or the obstacles that are in the way, we stand a good chance of stumbling. But when it comes to spiritual things, we are not in the dark, becuase God has given us the light of His Word to show us where to put our feet (Ps. 119:105).
The other reason we might stumble, even if we can see where we are going, is if someone deliberately trips us. A while back in our family it was a great game while we were walking (for some) to try and trip up the person in front of you by gently guiding their foot across. A few times they succeeded, but we quickly learned not to let that person walk directly behind us. Similarly in our spiritual walk. If there’s some area that we find ourselves stumbling at time and time again, we need to take stock as to why that is the case. More often than not it’s because we are putting ourselves in the line of temptation. It may also be a character flaw that we need to ask God to help us with. In both cases, the Word gives us discernment.
One thing to remember is that stumbling is an involuntary action. If you do find yourself flat on your face (spiritually), don’t stay there. Get up and keep moving. God knows we are not perfect, and He has promised to give us all the help we need.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The value of God's promises

“I rejoice in Your promise like one who finds great spoil.” Psalm 119:162
God’s promises are some of the most precious things we can have. He is the only One who will never fail us. If He has promised us something in His Word, we can be sure He will follow through on it.
The promise of salvation for those who have committed their lives to Christ. The promise of eternity in heaven with Him. The promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us. The promise that He is watching over us for our ultimate good, every second of every day.
When we truly grasp what these mean, that out of this whole enormous universe, God cares for you and me as individuals – that He knows how many hairs are on our heads – it should leave us speechless. We have done nothing to deserve this level of attention, but it is all because of His unconditional love for us (which again, we don’t deserve).
The thrill we might have over winning the Lotto jackpot will eventually pass. The money will get spent and the cars and boats and houses will get old and break down. But God’s promises are just as reliable as they were on the day He had them written down in the Scriptures. Now that’s something we can all rejoice in.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'm pre-Trib

“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9
While there are many verses that support the pre-Trib rapture of the church, this is the verse that clinches it for me. The Tribulation is the time of God’s wrath being poured out on a Christ-rejecting world, the end times when sin in sinful man will finally be judged. We will not be part of that if we have accepted Christ, and He has already paid the punishment we were due to receive for sin, on the cross. We are no longer condemned with the world (Rom. 8:1). Just as Lot was removed from Sodom before the judgement came, and just as Enoch was removed from the earth before the Flood, so too the Church (all true believers in Christ) will be removed before God’s judgement is poured out. God has not appointed us to suffer wrath, nor does He judge the righteous with the wicked (Gen. 18:25).
There are some who agree with all this, but point out that the Great Tribulation is technically only the last 3 ½ years of the final seven year period detailed in the book of Revelation (also known as the ‘70th week of Daniel’, see Dan. 9:24-27). They hold a ‘pre-wrath’ position which has the church enduring some of the wrath of the Antichrist but being removed prior to the sixth seal judgement, where the kings of the earth ask for the mountains to fall on them and hide them from ‘the wrath of the Lamb’ (Rev. 6:16-17). But all of the seals bring judgement, and Who is opening them? It is Jesus. The wrath of God starts with the opening of the first seal, when He takes His hands off the world and lets it deal with the full consequences of its sin for the first time. If we are in Christ, we will not be around to see these things, because He has appointed us unto salvation.

Monday, July 26, 2010


“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17
Those who say that the pre-Tribulation rapture of the church is a new doctrine, need to read the Bible a bit more carefully. There are dozens of verses like this one that show that even Paul himself expected the rapture to occur in his lifetime. He uses the pronoun ‘we’, saying ‘we... will be caught up’ (translated into the Latin word ‘rapturo’ in Vulgate, from which we get the word ‘rapture’). He does not say ‘they... will be caught up’, speaking of a future generation. The same construct is seen in 1 Cor. 15:51-52: ‘We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed’.
Peter notes that while the Lord could be expected at any time, in the last days there would be scoffers who will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised?” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Indeed, the Bible has been declaring the truth that Jesus could return at any time, for the last two thousand years. But Peter himself also looked forward to the day of Christ (2 Pet. 3:11-12).
Similarly, we may not be the generation to be raptured. But certainly we can see things moving into place for the events detailed in the book of Revelation: Israel is back in the land and hated by all nations, the world is ripe for a one-world government and one-world religion, technology is in place for a cashless society, the nations are armed to the teeth. “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). Are you looking up?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The value of discernment

“So give Your servant a discerning heart to overn your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of Yours?” 1 Kings 3:9
Solomon started his life walking closely with the Lord. After David his father died and Solomon became king, God appeared to him in a dream and asked him what he wanted most of all. Most people would probably have asked for riches, honour, health, a long life; but Solomon asked for discernment in governing the people of Israel. This pleased God (1 Kin. 3:10) and He did indeed give Solomon discernment and wisdom in matters concerning government of the people. In addition, God also gave him the things he had not asked for: riches and honour (1 Kin. 3:13).
Solomon did indeed appreciate the value of wisdom and discernment (even if he didn’t apply very much to his personal life in choosing hundreds of wives and concubines). “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7). The Proverbs have much to say about wisdom and discernment, and how the lack of these will result in a person’s downfall. We can all strive to be more discerning, and asking God to help us in this is a sure way to obtain it (Jas. 1:5).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

As if working for the Lord

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Colossians 3:23
This is a verse we can all apply to our lives, no matter what we do. It applies to us as employees, as students, when we are doing chores around the house, coaching a sports team, or serving in a church. We all have times when we wish we’d rather be doing something else. Times when a household chore really is a chore, or when we find our job boring. Those are the times we need to take stock of our attitude. Everything we have, we only have because God gave it to us – our houses, our jobs, our families. We should be grateful to Him and keep Him in mind when we are working for those things. He is the one who will reward us for our work, both in this life and in eternity. Having a good attitude towards our work is a good witness to those around us who aren’t saved. Don’t think about how much your boss annoys you when you are working – think about how you are working for God.
If we keep an eternal perspective about things that we do, we are able to escape the day-to-day monotony and strive for a higher goal. If pleasing God is our highest priority in life, then everything else will fall into place.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The shadow, and the real thing

“These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Colossians 2:17
Paul here is referring to the religious feasts and the keeping of the Sabbath (Col. 2:16). The feasts were given to Israel to mark certain events in their history: the Passover, when the angel of death ‘passed over’ the houses of Israel in Egypt (Ex. 12); the Feast of Unleavened Bread, remembering how the Israelites left Egypt in such a hurry they did not have time to put the yeast in their bread (Ex. 12:39); the Feast of Tabernacles, to remember the manner in which the Israelites had wandered in the wilderness (Lev. 23:43). Also there was the Feast of Firstfruits, giving God thanks for the harvest; the Feast of Weeks, for the completion of the harvest; and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Christ is the fulfilment of all of these. He is the Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7), and it is by His blood that death cannot touch us. He is the unleavened bread (yeast being a symbol of sin), the bread of life, sinless. He is the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-23), guaranteeing the rest of the harvest to come. He is the atonement for our sins and the means by which we can obtain mercy from God. He is the tabernacle that shelters us while we are in the world. And at His trumpet call, we will rise to be with Him forever. In Him is also found the true Sabbath rest (Heb. 4:9-11). There is much we can learn from the Old Testament, and it’s a shame that many Christians tend to ignore it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The cost of sacrifice

“But the king replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.” 2 Samuel 24:24
David had sinned against the Lord by counting the men in Israel’s army (this had been expressly forbidden, Ex. 30:12). So the Lord offered him three choices of judgement: three years of famine, three months of war, or three days of plague. David opted for the latter, and the destroying angel began to strike down the people. However, when he came to the city of Jerusalem, God had mercy and called to the angel to stop (2 Sam. 24:16). David saw this happening, and the exact place was at the threshing-floor of a man called Araunah. David then offered to buy the land in order to establish an altar. When Araunah offered to give it to him – no doubt he had seen the angel too – David refused.
I hope we can identify with David’s words here: ‘I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God [something] that cost me nothing.’ A sacrifice is only so if it costs us something. Cost is different from monetary value – we think of the widow’s mite (Luke 21:1-4). It is not something that is judged by other people, but by God, because only He knows how much something is worth to us. And if we struggle to obey when He asks us to give up something to Him, we need to remember that everything we have belongs to God anyway.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Created by Him and for Him

“For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:16
Here is one of several verses declaring Jesus Christ to be the creator of all things. All three members of the Godhead were involved in the creation (Gen. 1:1-3) – ‘God created’, ‘the Spirit of God was hovering’, and God’s Word went forth as He spoke.
This is incredible to think: that Jesus, who created the world, would humble Himself so far as to step into creation and take on all its limitations. It’s hard for us to comprehend this, as there isn’t really an analogy for us to step down into something we created from scratch. He was willing to do that because of His love for us.
Another point to note, is that ‘all things’ were created by Christ. Therefore Christ is not a created being (as the cults teach), else He would have had to create Himself. He created not just the physical world, but also the spiritual world, and the systems of the world: establishing governments on earth and chains of command in heaven.
Paul also tells us here why ‘all things’ were created: ‘for Him’. That’s right – we, and the whole world, all the angels etc. were all created for Jesus’ pleasure (Rev. 4:11). Therefore, since we know this, don’t you think we should make a conscious effort to live in a way that is pleasing to God?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Secular virtues

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Just as the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc., Paul here lists a number of human virtues held in high regard by the Greeks.
‘true’ – alethes – not concealing
‘noble’ – semnos – honest, venerable
‘right’ – dikaios – equitable, innocent, just
‘pure’ – hagnos – clean
‘lovely’ – prosphiles – friendly towards, acceptable
‘admirable’ – euphemos – well-spoken of, reputable, of good report
These are all things that distinguish a person in society as being a ‘good person’. Similarly there are many things that the secular world produces that are not necessarily evil: art, literature, etc. We can enjoy looking at beautiful paintings and reading uplifting poetry. However, we do need to “test all things [and] hold on to the good” (1 Thess. 5:21). Whatever we enjoy from the secular world, we must test against these virtues. Is this TV programme ‘clean’ and ‘acceptable’? Is this book something to be admired?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Enemies of the cross

“Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” Philippians 3:19
This is a very apt description of worldly people, even today – those who “live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18) – those who don’t give Christianity a second thought.
‘Their destiny is destruction’ – because, like it or not, there is only one way to salvation: through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). But even in this life, those who live from party to party, will eventually end up in a downward spiral of always wanting more thrills, and always wanting more stuff. It’s impossible to be truly satisfied from material things.
‘Their god is their stomach’ – I can testify to this. Many a conversation over morning tea at work has tended towards different kinds of wine or different kinds of food: restaurant meals people enjoyed, or flavours of cheese, etc. These conversations really test my patience sometimes!
‘Their glory is in their shame.’ How true this is; we all know people who are proud of their drunken antics or how they lost their virginity. The things they should be ashamed of, are the things they boast about. Say no more.
‘Their mind is on earthly things.’ All that this world can offer a person, is ultimately temporal and passing away. Money can be stolen, possessions can become outdated, beauty fades like a flower, fame is but for a moment. Family can go off the rails, friends move on. In this life there is only one thing that is constant – God, because He is eternal.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The last one standing

“Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13
So begins a well-known passage in the book of Ephesians concerning the armour of God. Like it or not, the Christian life is a battle in the spiritual realm. At present, the world system we live in is ruled by Satan. We are on enemy territory. Now, this is not to say that we need to be worried or frightened, but we do need to be prepared for the conflicts that do arise.
Satan’s agenda is to attack us using a variety of means, through circumstances, through people we know and people we don’t, through words, innuendos, suggestions, tempting us into compromise or complacency, or through blatant demonic opposition. His goal is to weaken us, to separate us from our fellow troops and render us ineffective against his kingdom and those he holds captive (unbelievers, see 2 Tim. 2:26). ‘Undercover Christians’, who do the church thing on Sunday and other things during the week, are already ineffective. But he will target those who are seeking to make a difference in this world for the kingdom of God. As it has been said, if you don’t believe in Satan, try opposing him for a while.
Satan is no match for God, and God dwells in us by His Holy Spirit. When we stand for righteousness, we will come under attack. This is why we need the armour of God to protect us. This verse summarises the end goal: that we may be able to stand our ground, and after the dust of battle settles, to still be standing.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


“making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16
As we look at the world around us, we despair at what it is becoming; the sinful lifestyles people are tolerating and engaging in. We look at the laws our governments are introducing, in disbelief. We read the statistics on abused and aborted children, and are sickened. And so we conclude, like every other generation before us, that the days are evil and the world is indeed getting darker. How much longer until God says ‘enough is enough’, and brings His judgement? If Paul could say that in his time ‘the days are evil’, and speak of the imminency of the return of Christ, how much more so now?
We can have one of two responses to this. We can give up on the world, ignoring its plight and sticking to ourselves or our group of Christian friends. Or we can ‘make the most of every opportunity’, and seek to witness and to minister to as many people as we can in the short time that is left, “that by all possible means [we] might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
I would venture to say that most of us are not called to be evangelists. However, we are all called to be witnesses. We are told, “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15). Look out for those opportunities to do good to others, because this in itself may open a door to witness to them.

Friday, July 16, 2010

'But now'

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8
Throughout the book of Ephesians Paul draws contrasts between what we once were, “but now” what we have become. We were once dead in sin, ‘but now’ we are alive to God. We were once following the ways of our flesh and of the sinful world around us, ‘but now’ we are able to live godly lives by the Spirit. One idiom that sums all of these things up well is this verse: we were once darkness, ‘but now’ we are light in the Lord.
This verse is interesting in what it does not say. It does not say ‘you were once in darkness’, but ‘you were once darkness’ – we were not just in the darkness of the world (indeed, we still are; that is why we are commanded to let our light shine, Matt. 5:16), but we were part of its essence. We belonged to it and contributed to it. The contrast now: we are not merely ‘iin the light’ but we are light. See Matt. 5:14. Christ living in us is the light that we show to the world.
This is an amazing transformation: God makes us the antithesis of what we once were. We were darkness, but now we are light. We were dead in sins, but now we live in His righteousness. We were heading for hell, but now we are destined for heaven. We hated God, but now we love Him. We were lost, but now we are found; we were blind, but now we see.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

God delights in us

“He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” 2 Samuel 22:20
Many times throughout the Bible we are told of the reasons God chooses to rescue us. It is not because we did something good, or earned favour with Him in any way. The reason God chooses us is because of His love (see for example Deut. 7:7-8). If God chose us based on anything we had done, it would be salvation by works instead of by grace.
God delights in showing grace and mercy to people who respond to Him. If we truly understood just how far we are removed from God’s perfect standard, and just how powerless we are to do anything about it, then we can start to appreciate the grace God shows to us by offering us salvation through His Son. God is not reluctant to save anybody (1 Tim. 2:4). But the barrier lies in the proud heart of sinful man, who is unwilling to completely surrender his (or her) life to God. We have a hard time accepting pricey gifts from people, especially when we have done nothing to deserve it. This is what God has done for us.
And now that we are saved, God still loves us and delights in us just the same as before. We still don’t need to earn His favour, as if to keep ourselves saved. Yes, good works will follow salvation, but they are a response of gratitude to God, not trying to pay Him back. It’s mindblowing to think that God looks upon us and delights in us. But He does.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

He hears us

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came to His ears.” 2 Samuel 22:7
In this song of David (which is also given in Psalm 18), he praises God for how He delivered him from all his enemies. I found this verse interesting, because if you think about it, the temple in Jerusalem was built by Solomon. David was expressly forbidden by God to build the temple. Solomon did not even start on the construction until after David had died. So what is David referring to when he says, ‘from His temple He heard my voice’?
When Moses was given the instructions on how to build the tabernacle, God told him, “See that you make [it] according to the pattern shown you on the mountain” (Ex. 25:40). Moses was given a glimpse of heaven, for the tabernacle is a model of heaven; the Holy of Holies being representative of God’s throne, where mercy is found and the angels surround Him saying ‘Holy, holy, holy’ (Rev. 4:6-8).
So what David is saying here is that God heard his cry from His very throne room. Similarly our prayers are like incense (Rev. 5:8), which are continually coming up before God as a sweet aroma, just as the altar of incense was present in the tabernacle (Ex. 30:8). When we call to God out of our distress, He does hear us. He may not always respond in our timing, but He always responds in His timing, and His timing is perfect.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Joab's cruelty

“Joab said to Amasa, ‘How are you, my brother?’ Then Joab took Amasa by the beard wtih his right hand to kiss him. Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died.” 2 Samuel 20:9-10
Joab was the leader of David’s army and was fiercely loyal to David. But this loyalty was devoid of morality. Joab killed several people in cold blood – we read of how he killed Amasa here; he also killed his own brother Abner (2 Sam. 3:27), and David’s son Absalom (2 Sam. 18:14). David remembered all this, and told Solomon to deal with Joab in the only way left for him (1 Kin. 2:5). His loyalty was undermined by his cruelty.
There are other cases of this same temperament. Another example is that of Levi and Simeon, the sons of Jacob, in Gen. 34. After Hamor raped their sister Dinah, they deceived the entire town of Shechem into being circumcised, but before they had recovered, Simeon and Levi killed every man in the town. Jacob did not forget about this, and cursed them for it when he was on his deathbed (Gen. 49:5-7).
There are many instances that we face where the end does not justify the means. David was a ‘man of blood’ – a warrior – yet he was also a man after God’s own heart. Joab killed people in cold blood out of envy and revenge. While both were serving their God, king, and country, only one was rewarded.

Monday, July 12, 2010

God's eternal word

“Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” Psalm 119:89
With so many people these days denying that the whole Bible is true, and denying that it is the inspired, infallible word of God, it’s interesting to note what God says about it. Not only does it ‘stand firm’, but it is also eternal. God’s Word will endure forever. Think about it: that’s longer than the earth will endure – and even longer than heaven itself will endure, since the heavens and earth will be destroyed and re-created (Isa. 65:17, Matt. 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33). These things that we think of as being so fixed and permanent, yet the Word of God will outlast them all.
I really don’t get it when people say things like, ‘Well, the Bible says X but what it really means is Y.’ Of course, the Bible uses figures of speech, but it doesn’t say things like ‘if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire’ (Rev. 20:15) to mean ‘if your good deeds outweigh your bad, you’ll go to heaven.’ It doesn’t emphasise the bodily resurrection of Christ to mean that it was a spiritual resurrection. No – the God means what He says and says what He means. He has given us His word through the apostles and prophets, and it will stand, unchanged, forever.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Say it while you can

“The king covered his face and cried aloud, ‘O my son Absalom! O Absolom, my son, my son!” 2 Samuel 19:4
After David’s affair with Bathsheba, trouble never stopped brewing within his family. Absalom, his third son (2 Sam. 3:3) was striking in appearance and through smooth words turned the hearts of Israel away from David to himself. David fled Jerusalem, and in due course Absalom was advised to send out armies to kill him and his men. But in the battle, Absalom became caught in a tree by his hair, and Joab struck him and killed him. This so grieved David that the whole army returned to Jerusalem in mourning, instead of celebration.
David’s display of emotion here for Absalom had never been shown to him while he was alive. Absalom had killed his half-brother Amnon because of what he had done to his sister Tamar, and fled to the land of the Philistines. Even though David longed to see him, he did not send for him (2 Sam. 13:37-39). Then when Joab encouraged David to bring Absalom back, he lived in Jersualem for two years without seeing his father (2 Sam. 14:28). It would seem that David was very ‘hands-off’ with all of his sons (see 1 Kin. 1:6).
We can learn many lessons from this about the importance of discipline and communication in the family. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The power of words

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
It has been said that the most powerful muscle in the body is – the tongue. James tells us that the tongue is like a fire and cannot be tamed (James 3:6-8). It is very easy to say something, and impossible to take it back once it has been said.
The words we speak are powerful. We can use words to demoralise a person and cut them down. We may teach our children the saying, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,’ but in fact the opposite is true. The wounds from hurtful words can stay with a person far longer than a physical bruise.
Instead, as Christians, our words should be gentle and uplifting. We all need to think more, before we start speaking. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6). Salt is an antiseptic, a purifying agent, a preservative and a flavour enhancer. This is what our words should be to those around us.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Living worthily

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Ephesians 4:1
Here is a question for all of us: are we living in a way that is worthy of our calling as Christians? Are we an example to the people around us of what a Christian should be, or do we talk the talk but fail to walk the walk? Maybe we are ‘undercover Christians’ and people around us don’t know and wouldn’t even suspect we are Christians! Is our morality fixed in stone according to the word of God, or does it change in certain situations to match that of the people we hang out with?
The third of the Ten Commandments is “you shall not take the name of the Lord in vain” (Ex. 20:7, Deut. 5:11). This is referring to much more than simply using God’s name as a swear word (although we must not do that, either). It extends to us taking God’s name upon ourselves – calling ourselves ‘God’s people’, or ‘Christ-ians’ – and then failing to live in a manner that God expects from His people.
How can we call ourselves Christians and continue in a lifestyle of sin? Whether it be sexual immorality, fornication, violence, stealing, having a reputation for being a gossip or always bad-mouthing people, all of these present a bad witness to the world. If we are serious about taking the name of Christ, then let’s live in a way that is worthy of that name.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The extent of Christ's love

“... to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ...” Ephesians 3:18
Jesus’ love for us truly is unfathomable. Here Paul describes not three dimensions, but four measures of Christ’s love for us.
His love is wide – stretching throughout the world, to all people. There is no-one who is too far away from receiving His love. Jesus died on the cross for all of us, and salvation is open to anyone will just put their faith in Him.
His love is long – He is patient. He does not find pleasure when people die in their sins, but gives people as many opportunities as possible to repent and turn to Him.
His love is deep – He reached down to us in our sinful state, to pull us out of the mire that we had got ourselves into. See Romans 5:8.
His love is high – He raises us up unto salvation. But this raising up is more than just to be with Him in heaven, it is raising us up to sit with Him on His very throne. Sometimes I don’t understand why He would want to do this – considering our failures and inconsistencies. But the answer is found in one word: His love.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The mystery of the Church

“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 3:6
In Ephesians, Paul elaborates on the ‘mystery’ of the Church, the body of Christ. A ‘mystery’ in this sense is something that has not been revealed, until now. The mystery is not that Gentiles can be saved. This happened on many occasions in the Old Testament: Rahab, Ruth, and so forth – even Abraham was technically a ‘Gentile’ when he was declared righteous (see Rom. 4:9-10). However, under the Old Testament, a Gentile seeking to come to God had to proselyte into Judaism first. But even then, they could not enter the temple past the court of the Gentiles.
This is not the case in the body of Christ. As we read earlier in Gal. 2:28, we are now one in Christ. Jews and Gentiles have equal standing before God, and we are ‘heirs together’. In the body of Christ, there is no need for Gentiles to become Jewish in order to come to God. This was a big shake-up for the early church – and its something that some believers still struggle with today.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

He chose us

“For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” Ephesians 1:4
Verses like this one always leave me amazed at God. You’d think He would have been too busy thinking about how to create the world – all the intricacies of life, climate, motion of the planets – yet even before all that, He knew us and chose us. He saw us in our fallen, sinful state, yet He chose us. He saw us after He chose us, glorified with Him, and He was pleased. That just blows my mind.
Paul gives two reasons here why we are chosen. The first is to be holy, which means to be set apart. Just as we have a set of ‘good china’ and ‘good silverware’ that we only bring out for special occasions, likewise we are set apart for God’s special purposes. The second is to be blameless. Now that we are in Christ, God does not hold our sin against us. Our sin – past, present, and future – was all paid for at the cross. We stand before Him, forgiven. In fact this is the only means by which we are able to stand before Him.
We might find this choosing hard to swallow. But one thing is for sure: God knew what He was doing when He chose us. He doesn’t make mistakes.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sowing and reaping

“The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:8
The law of sowing and reaping applies to believers and non-believers alike (much as the law of gravity). In the natural, if someone sows an apple seed, an apple tree will grow and eventually produce apples. If someone sows grass seed, then grass will grow. If we sow the seeds of weeds, then weeds will grow. Whatever is sown is eventually what will be produced. It is the same in the spiritual realm. If we sow hatred, gossip, and so forth, eventually it will come back to bite us. But if we sow patience, mercy, love, and grace, we will receive it again in due course.
In this verse, Paul shows us that we have two choices of where to sow. We can sow to please the sinful nature – that is, what we spend the most time doing and where we place our priorities in life. Or we can sow to please the Spirit of God. What’s it to be?
As before, we will reap what we sow. If we sow to please the sinful nature, we will reap destruction and death, for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). But if we sow to please God, we will reap eternal life.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

One in Christ

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
Christian believers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from all backgrounds and from every walk of life. There is great diversity in the body of Christ, yet at the same time, unity.
It has been a common thing, and in many cases, still is today, to think that some Christians are ‘better’ than others. In Paul’s day, Jews looked down on non-Jews, to the point where it was practically a national pastime. It is not surprising that these attitudes were taken into the church – Jewish believers looking down on the Gentile sitting next to them. While an understanding of Jewish things, like the sacrifices and feast days, can enhance our appreciation of Christ’s work on the cross, knowledge of Judaism is not a pre-requisite to salvation. Similarly, attitudes that have endured for even longer, that free men are ‘better’ than slaves, and that men are ‘better’ than women.
No. We are all on equal standing in Christ, before God. The fact that we may be Jewish, Gentile, rich, poor, male, or female, has no impact upon our eternal inheritance. God does not show favouritism (Rom. 2:11). Therefore, there is also no place for favouritism or prejudice in the body of Christ. We are all one – the bride of Christ.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

God's commands set us free

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
This is a theme that Paul elaborates on in the book of Galatians: that God’s commands are given so that we can have freedom. This is contrary to what the world tells us: ‘God wants to spoil your fun by saying ‘Don’t do this’ and ‘Don’t do that’.’ But this is not so. Yes, God’s commands lay down boundaries for us, and there are certain things that we are commanded not to do. But we are free within those boundaries, and if we keep within them we will live a life of abundance. God’s commands are not given to restrict us, but to protect us. For example, think of the prevalence of sexually-transmitted diseases in the world today. If everyone obeyed God’s command: sex is to be reserved for two people married to each other – this problem would not exist.
Rather than thinking about the things God has commanded that we shouldn’t do, we should concentrate on the things He has said that we can and should do. We can be generous to others and bless them. We can speak words of encouragement to edify people. We can seek His Holy Spirit to work in power in our lives. We can reach out to a lost world that they may know the love of Christ.

Friday, July 2, 2010

His Word in us

“I have hidden Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11
It’s important to spend some time reading the Bible every day. Even if you’ve read it every day for the last fifty years, it’s always good to refresh your mind with the Word. Continually reading it, pondering upon it, letting it sink into your heart and directing your actions accordingly, will change your life. Meditating on the Word of God is like a cow chewing the cud: keep bringing it up and chewing it over, to get every ounce of goodness out of it. Sometimes you’ll come up against temptation and not have your Bible and search tools handy. You need to have the Word in your heart. If we know what the Word says, we can immediately counter every temptation. If we know what the Word says, we can know what sin is and avoid it.
Our local radio station is promoting the ‘E-100’ Bible reading challenge: encouraging people to read 100 of the most essential passages of Scripture. At the start of this promotion, they quoted some astonishing figures about how many Christians have never read through the whole Bible.
I’ve used a variety of Bible reading plans over the years. Chronological readings can be quite insightful, especially marrying up the books of the prophets with Israel’s history in Kings and Chronicles. At the moment I’m using a pattern of Old Testament and a Psalm in the morning, and New Testament in the evening, on a 320-day cycle for the Old Testament and 160-day cycle for Psalms and the New Testament. That corresponds to about 3 chapters in the morning and 2 chapters in the evening. If you don’t have a Bible reading plan and would like some guidance, feel free to leave a comment with your contact details and I’ll send some options to you.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Keeping our ways pure

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word.” Psalm 119:9
The whole of Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is about God’s word and how it benefits us. There are only three verses in the entire psalm that don’t refer to God’s word, law, statutes, decrees, promises etc.
Here we are given the key to having a pure life: living according to God’s word. The New Testament, and especially the epistles, gives many instructions and examples of how we ought to be living as Christians: in peace and compassion; without envy, malice, gossip, or bitterness; putting others’ interests ahead of our own; responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and not making any allowances for our old sinful nature; and so on. All of these things hinge upon seeking to have God’s ways manifest in our lives, instead of the ways that are ‘natural’ to our human, sinful nature. If we obey God’s word and do this, we will be conformed into the image of Christ. He is the ultimate example of someone who kept His way pure. He kept the Law of God perfectly.
If we obey God’s word, it will protect us. We won’t be so easily drawn into temptation, because we won’t be frequenting those places where temptation resides. We won’t find ourselves powerless against sin, because God’s word says we should resist it. And we are not alone in this: as we seek to obey God, the Holy Spirit enables us. It becomes an upwards spiral, towards a pure life in all its fullness.